USCIS Issues 2018 Poverty Guidelines: Raises the Income Level Family Sponsors of Immigrants' Must Prove

To overcome a possible finding that the immigrant is inadmissible as a likely public charge, the U.S. sponsor will need to show income and/or assets that exceed the annual Poverty Guidelines levels, which went up in 2018.

** LEGAL UPDATE **

The U.S. government recently published its 2018 Poverty Guidelines. These figures, which are updated annually, are critically important to the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is sponsoring a family member (perhaps a spouse, parent, child, or sibling) for U.S. lawful permanent residence (a U.S. green card).

As part of the application process, the U.S. petitioner will need to fill out a form called an Affidavit of Support, on USCIS Form I-864, on the immigrant's behalf.

The legal purpose of this Affidavit is to prove that, according to the numbers set forth within the U.S. Poverty Guidelines, the U.S. sponsor's household income is high enough to support the immigrating family members at 125% or more of U.S. poverty line levels, after taking into account anyone already living with or dependent on the U.S. sponsor. (The amount the sponsor must show goes back down to 100% for those in Alaska or Hawaii or who are members of the U.S. Armed Forces.)

The rationale underlying this requirement is to ensure that the immigrating family member will not need to rely on means-based public assistance (often referred to as welfare) while living in the United States. Prospective immigrants who are viewed as likely to become a “public charge” are considered legally inadmissible to the U.S., and will be denied admission (in other words, they will not receive an immigrant visa or green card despite the qualifying family relationship).

In filling out and signing Form I-864, the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident petitioner is entering into a contractual obligation with the U.S. government. The sponsor is agreeing to either support the immigrant (for approximately ten years or until one of various events occurs, such as the immigrant's death) or will pay back any and all U.S. government agencies that supply the immigrant with financial or related need-based assistance during the time the Affidavit is in effect.

As normally occurs, increases in the U.S. cost of living led to the Poverty Guidelines amounts being raised in 2018. So, for instance, while last year a U.S. petitioner supporting a family of four would have had to show an income of $30,750, this year the amount required is a bit higher, at $31,375. For a household of two (for example, a U.S. citizen sponsoring a spouse or one parent), the amount has gone from $20,300 to $20,575.

To view and download the 2018 Poverty Guidelines, go to the I-864P page of the USCIS website.

For more information on the petitioner’s role as financial sponsor, see Nolo’s articles on The U.S. Sponsor's Financial Responsibilities.

Effective date: March 28, 2018